Bahrain: Detainee Muneer Habib Thrown Out of Court after Testifying against the Public Prosecutor who Tortured him and Forced him to Confess
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern for the Public Prosecution and Court in Bahrain continued fabrication of malicious cases and mock trials that lack the foundations of a fair trial against activists and citizens, where the Judge of the Fourth High Criminal Court Ali Khalifa Al-Dhahrani on 21 November 2013 threw one of the detainees, and he is Mr. Muneer Habib, out of the courtroom after declaring that the present Public Prosecutor (Hamad Al-Bouainain) is the one that tortured him and forced him to make a false confession. This took place during the first hearing in the case of forming a terrorist cell where the accused are: Mr. Sadiq Ali Al-Shakhoori (43 years), Mr. Muneer Habib Saeed (31 years), Mr. Sajjad Al-Alawi (28 years), Ali Hussein Haji (30 years) and Mohammed Jaffar Nasser.
The Court charged Mr. Sadiq Ali Al-Shakhoori with managing and financing a terrorist cell that was founded in 2011 which aims at suspending the provisions of the law and harming national unity, and using violence as a means to achieve that, while it charged the remaining four with joining this cell, which they all denied at Court. At the end of the hearing, the case was adjourned until 8 December 2013, in order to enable the lawyers to look into the case file and to refer Sajjad Al-Alawi and another detainee to the forensic doctor while continuing the imprisonment. The lawyer of the detainee Sajjad Sayed Mohsen Al-Alawi indicated on his Twitter account[i] that he requested that his client gets referred to a forensic doctor, although he had already made such a request two months ago. This could cause the torture marks to fade due to neglecting to refer him at that time. The father of detainee Sajjad Al-Alawi also said that his son told him in a phone call which followed the hearing that the Public Prosecutor who was present at Court was in fact the one who participated in his torture and threatened him with further torture in case he did not sign the confessions that have prepared beforehand.[ii]
Worth mentioning, Mr. Muneer Habib was arrested at dawn on 28 May 2013 after civil forces accompanied by police patrols raided his house. Information indicated that he was tortured at that time in the Criminal Investigation Department, notorious for its systematic torture, to force him to confess to his involvement in carrying out terrorist acts. His family informed the BCHR at an earlier time that Mr. Habib had spoken to the Public Prosecutor – Ali Al-Jazzaf – and had told him that he was exhausted from the severe torture and that he suffers from extreme pain in his hands in addition to pain in various areas of his body, among them head and back. However, the Public Prosecutor did not pay any attention to what he was saying and continued the interrogation to charge him with a series of accusations. Muneer expressed to the Public Prosecutor his fear that the torture may continue to make him confess to other charges; yet the Public Prosecutor ensured that that would be impossible and ordered his release. Nonetheless, orders from supreme bodies were made and his imprisonment was renewed for 60 days pending investigation according to the requisites of the Terrorism Law. The family also stated that it noticed clear torture marks on his body; on their first visit on 3 June 2013, it was clear that he had saggy eyes and his right eye was swollen, in addition to not being able to walk normally. Muneer informed his family that he was subjected to torture on a daily basis and that he was taken to the Criminal Investigation Department for interrogation and his confessions were filmed where he claims leading groups of 14 February youth in various villages, among them Ghurayfah, Juffair, Mahooz and Manama. He was also subjected to severe torture to force him to confess falsely that his sister, a former detainee, Muneera Habib, was involved in the accusation of being affiliated with the 14 February Youth Coalition[iii].
As to Sajjad Al-Alawi he was arrested on 22 September 2013 after being surrounded by civilian cars that belong to the National Security Apparatus on Budaiya road. After interrogating him and transferring him to the Dry Dock prison, his family met him, and they stated that they noticed that Al-Alawi’s ability to walk was affected. The lawyer Mohsen Al-Alawi also stated that Sajjad was subjected to torture and that the torture marks were visible on his back, and that the officer who interrogated him told him, “I know that your case is participating in demonstrations in Manama, but this charge has a minor sentence, and you will be free after a short while, therefore I will affix more than one accusation to you[iv]”.
Bahrain TV had pre-anticipated the trial results where it broadcasted on 13 June 2013 photos of a group of citizens amid a report by the Ministry of Interior[v] accusing them of carrying out terrorist acts and plotting to carry out bombings in vital areas. Among those whose photos were broadcasted was a group that was accused of plotting to perform terrorist acts in the American Service Center, and among this group are three defendants in this case, and they are: Mr. Sadiq Al-Shakhoori, Mr. Muneer Habib, and Ali Haji. This is considered a type of defaming defendants before a verdict is issued against them, and it is a violation of the right to a fair trial, and this is a systematic conduct of the security apparatuses in Bahrain in cooperation with the state media.
The BCHR had confirmed in its reports the involvement of the Public Prosecution in the violations, in a previous report about the Special Investigation Unit it was stated, “many detainees and activists over the past years complain about the complicity of the Public Prosecution and the Criminal Investigation in concealing the crimes of torture and violation practices, where the detainees are in most cases questioned at dawn without the presence of a lawyer which puts them under great pressure and this forces them to confess to crimes they did not commit. In some cases, the Public Prosecution neglects noting down the detainee’s statements about them being subjected to torture and there are no marks on their bodies as a result of torture, other detainees said that they were subjected to beating by the interrogator at the Public Prosecution to force them to confess[vi]. Many of those arrested and tortured refuse to file complaints of torture against their torturers in the Public Prosecution either out of fear of being tortured again or due to losing confidence in the justice and neutrality of the Judicial bodies in Bahrain, especially in the light of the spread of impunity and acquitting torturers”.
The BCHR received information that almost 150 detainees did not file complaints of torture, and only suffice with talking about the torture they were subjected to in front of the judge to whom their cases were referred to; however, the judges did not initiate investigations in those cases, while others refused to listen to them. The BCHR also received information that approximately 200 detainees filed complaints during the last two months to the Public Prosecutor stating that they were subjected to torture on the hands of their interrogators and their assistants in the Criminal Investigation Department, and yet the Public Prosecutors did not seek to confirm these lawsuits despite the clarity of the torture marks on the bodies of some of the detainees. In many cases, the Public Prosecutors only use the term ‘mistreatment’ instead of torture while recording the proceedings of the interrogation with the detainee.
The BCHR believes that the Authorities in Bahrain have over the past two years and a half failed to prove that torture is unsystematic and the non-spread of the policy of impunity, which contributed in the increase of number of victims since the kickoff of the 14 February revolution until this day. The current Prime Minister’s visit to one of the torturers and his statement[vii] that the law does not apply to him as is the case with the ruling family proves the findings of the activists that there is support from supreme bodies to those torturers to practice violations away from the eyes of the law. The BCHR released a report on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture titled, “Bahrain: An Oasis of Torture[viii]” where it presented the testimonies of a group of detainees or those released which proves that torture is systematic and that it is considered a mean of extracting confessions and signing on malicious charges. In another report about the Fourth High Criminal Court, the BCHR proved through a group of different cases the biasness of the Judicial body and using the Court as a tool to avenge the prisoners of consciousness and activists[ix]. The testimonies of many activists proves the complicity of the Judicial body with the Public Prosecution and Criminal Investigations in forcing the detainees and activists[x] to confess to malicious charges, and listening to the torturers as prosecution witnesses in fake cases[xi].
Since the BCHR believes in the significance of pursuing the torturers and those responsible for the violations and holding them legally accountable, it had since the beginning of November 2013 and for 23 days held a campaign through the social network entitled “Wanted for Justice[xii]” with the aim of ending the policy of impunity in Bahrain. The campaign was met with significant interaction by the people while it faced negative reactions from pro-government figures.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls the US, the UK, the UN and all the Authority’s close allies and relevant international organizations for the following:
- Stop supporting the Authority in Bahrain in its suppression of people’s rights;
- Put pressure on the Authority in Bahrain to consider and maintain human rights in Bahrain and stop the violations.
It also calls the Authority in Bahrain to the following:
- Release the political prisoners and prisoners of consciousness;
- Stop fabricating charges and cases against detainees and activists with the intend to punish them for their activity;
- Investigate the torture allegations and coercion filed by the detainees against the security apparatuses’ and Public Prosecution members.